Rising dollar isn’t luring airmen off base

Allowances may see a decrease

By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 24, 2008

With dire economic news seemingly everywhere else, the U.S. dollar continues to gain ground against most major currencies in Europe.

The dollar-euro exchange rate available to military customers at Community Bank in Europe has risen by about 20 percent in favor of the greenback in recent months. The dollar will trade for .7621 when banks open Friday. The last time it approached that level was in November 2006.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Americans are going on shopping sprees off base. At least not according to a handful of airmen queried at Aviano Air Base in Italy on Thursday.

"I have noticed it," Senior Airman Jeff Culver said. "It’s good, but it’s bad for me on the money I get for housing. I don’t do a lot of shopping off base."

The money that the military pays troops and civilian employees to compensate for living overseas — the cost-of-living allowance and post allowance — traditionally decreases under a stronger dollar.

So those who do most of their shopping on base might actually take a hit in their wallets as the dollar rises in value.

"I don’t get a lot of COLA because I live in the dorms," Airman Clare Warden said. "So I try not to buy much off base. I’ve got to watch what I spend."

"It really hasn’t affected me," Tech. Sgt. Reggie Stovall said. "I really don’t buy a lot off base here, not as much as I did in Germany. It’s more expensive here."

Master Sgt. Wilbert Hall said the dollar has been slumping for so long he’s just used to thinking that everything off base is too expensive.

"Automatically, you get thinking that the euro is spinning out of control," said Hall, who describes himself as "a BX shopper."

Still, a 30-euro bill at that Italian restaurant down the street that would have cost him almost $50 in mid July is now almost $10 cheaper.

Put that way, Hall said, "You probably would go off base more."

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